Volume 17-2

The Experience of Watching: Place Defined by the Trinity of Land-, Sea-, and Skyscape

Daniel Brown

The interpretation of astronomically orientated ancient sites has frequently led to the conclusion that an astronomy cast needs to exist; a group that is thought to be highly educated as apparent within discussions and comments with researchers even if never published. This group within an ancient society would have a deeper knowledge of the movements of the Sun, Moon and stars derived through observations and analysis similar to the modern day scientific methodology and not accessible to the un-initiated. However, cultural astronomy has started to overcome this mistake by describing such sites not as observatories but as places where a certain phenomenon can be experienced and watched.

This paper will discuss this act of watching and how it is closely linked to a definition of place by introducing the notion of the dialectical image. The triplet of land-, sea-, and skyscape offer common themes and characteristics that allow the watcher to critically negotiate the surroundings and experience the place by dwelling therein. All three form a trinity and are actually part of one skyscape that invokes feelings, illustrates tensions and asks for action. Experiencing this unity is essential to watching. At this stage there is no deeper astronomical knowledge required that is only accessible to the initiated few. Cosmic cycles that manifest themselves through the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars as well as seasonal and tidal rhythms become obvious to everyone. Skyscapes at astronomically orientated sites capture this meaning. When stepping back from observing and engage in watching, the meaning can be recaptured in the trinity of land-, sea-, and skyscape.